The Christmas market is here — and it’s expensive. But is anyone to blame?
‘Realistically my prices should be higher, but I don’t want to charge that’
Dear readers — have you caught the festive bug yet? Does the cheery sparkle of tinsel and twinkling fairy lights bring you a sense of joy?
If you’ve passed through Lime Street station recently, you’ll likely have seen the Christmas market in all its glory just outside of St. George’s Hall. Alpine chalets, festive fair rides and… HOW much for a snow-topped donut?
In today’s story, Abi and Lisa team up to take a look at the carping and controversy that seems to attend the city’s annual Christmas market. Where are the costs coming from, and who’s making money? Read on to find out.
But first, your Post briefing — including the return of the night bus and a Penny Lane theft.
Your Post briefing
Wirral Transport Museum will remain closed after “hazardous substance risks” were discovered during an inspection. The museum, located on Taylor Street in Birkenhead, was closed in April ahead of an inspection by a health and safety watchdog. Since then, several contraventions of health and safety law have been found, with the museum’s operator Big Heritage apologising for the delay in its reopening. “No inconvenience supersedes public safety and the risk to life of visitors and volunteers,” they continued. “We can attest that Wirral Council took the results of the inspection very seriously and have spent considerable time and resources to address the issues raised as quickly as possible."
A night bus service is finally returning to Merseyside after years of campaigning from local students and late night workers. From the 8th of December the late night bus service will return, running between Liverpool and the Wirral every hour from midnight until 5am. Tickets will cost £2, with metro mayor Steve Rotheram calling the return of the service a “massive result for local people”.
And for a little dose of humour: a sign stolen from Penny Lane by a group of drunk students nearly 50 years ago has finally been returned. The street sign went missing back in 1976, before it was anonymously returned to The Beatles Story museum this week. The man who stole the sign told the BBC: "Because I am getting on a bit now, I want to return it to the Pool, where I spent six very happy years as a student, undergrad then postgrad, including meeting my wife of 44 years. Obviously, Liverpool is where the sign should now spend the rest of its days."
Working night and day at Liverpool’s Christmas market — but at what cost?
By Abi Whistance and Lisa Rand
Liverpool’s Christmas market is now officially open for business, with around 40 stalls and vendors from across the UK ready to brave winter temperatures to sell their wares.
And who can blame them? Thanks to its location outside St George’s Hall — boasting great visibility and connections to Liverpool Lime Street — the market is right in the centre of it all, with over 7.5 million people passing through the city centre in December 2022 according to Liverpool BID.
Yet despite its success at drawing in crowds, a different theme dominates the headlines (and the tweets) each year: money. "Shocking. Ripping people off in these hard times,” one person told The Echo last year after a pint of Coors burned a £6.50 hole in their pocket. “Selection isn't great either — I wouldn't buy it even if it was half the price,” another said.
But is this just a small group of disgruntled shoppers, unhappy at prices a fraction higher than to be expected? A quick look at the price list for this year shows they’re more than justified in their complaints — a classic hot chocolate weighs in at £5; a cup of hot tea or coffee trailing closely behind at £4. When it comes to food, the cheapest burger costs £7, and for a Christmas speciality burger, you’re looking at £9.
So why are the prices so high? Well, to answer that you need to speak to the traders at the market — which we’ve been doing in recent days — and some of them aren’t best pleased with what they are being charged to be at the markets. The cost of having a stall there can “stretch up to five figures”, with the price for a six-metre by two-metre food stall listed as £12,000 — or £280 per day. “It’s quite a lot [of money],” Monica says — she’s been running the Warm Wool stand for seven years after moving to Liverpool from Glasgow. “Every year it’s getting more expensive”.
And Monica isn’t alone. Kelly has been running the Bubble Tea stand with her cousin for two years, and tells us the cost of a stall here has increased significantly. “It’s more expensive but with the cost of living everything’s gone up,” she says, adding that she knows a number of businesses that have had to increase their prices to pay for overheads.
Ok, so let’s go up the chain again. Who is charging these rents to the stall holders? Despite the widespread notion that the markets are operated by the council, they are actually run by a private company called Clarke Events. It’s owned by Doncaster duo Serina and Clarke Storey, and the company is listed online as working to “create unique and instagram-worthy pop-up catering stalls and bars” for businesses, as well as hosting Liverpool’s Christmas market.
The land outside St George’s Hall is leased to Clarke by the council, who have little involvement in the organisation of the market itself. The council confirmed it had leased the space to Clarke for three years in 2022 with the option for a further one-year extension, but would not disclose how much they made from that lease.